Around the World · Malaysia

Exploring Kuala Lumpur, Day 3: Chinatown, Gardens, and The River of Life

The last day I spent exploring Kuala Lumpur was a hands-down favorite: this time, my little girl adventured with me. 

In case you missed my earlier posts, there’s arrival essentials on day one, the Batu Caves and a taste of India on day two, and a bonus day and night in Melaka.

It was in Melaka where I picked up the little one, who was spending some time there with her dad. She and I caught the bus back to Kuala Lumpur on our last day, and had a solid chunk of time to kill before we had to be at the airport.

Here’s how we spent them.

Day 3 of 3: Gardens, Rivers, and Squares

  • Explore KL’s Museum Negara and Perdana Botanical Gardens
  • See Merdeka Square and the River of Life
  • Eat vegetarian and shop at the Petaling Street Night Market 

Starting at KL Sentral, you can explore all of the above on foot. Trust me: I did it all with a 6-year-old, in a 6-hour window, in 6 easy steps: 

  1. Rent a locker at KL Sentral.
  2. Walk to the National Museum and Botanical Gardens
  3. Walk to Merdeka Square and the River of Life
  4. Stop for a delicious meal 
  5. Explore Chinatown’s Petaling Street night market
  6. Catch a bus to KL International Airport

Luggage Lockers

Bigger train stations in KL, such as Sentral, have luggage lockers. You might need to find someone to help you operate them, though. Cost varies by size but I spent RM30 on one that fit a large travel backpack plus my daughter’s duffel bag.

Since we intended to spend the day traipsing around the city before catching our flight home, it was certainly worth the price to do so without the heavy bags.

Explore Museum Negara and Perdana Botanical Gardens

Although Google Maps may tell you otherwise, you can walk from KL Sentral to the national museum and botanical gardens. You have to cross a highway but otherwise it’s quite a short and easy venture. 

Since it was already late afternoon by the time we reached the museum, we opted against going inside and visited the gardens instead.

These gardens are especially fun for kids, with plenty to explore and a massive playground area.

See Dataran Merdeka and the River of Life

If you start at the bottom of the botanical gardens and work your way up to the playground, you’ll be near Jalan Parlimen. If you exit the park here, it’s about a 20-minute adventure walk to Merdeka Square and the River of Life.

We got caught in some light rain on our way out of the gardens and took shelter while enjoying the view at Merdeka.

The River of Life was a surprise for us and quite fantastical.

Dinner at Bakti Woodlands

Though you can find many great food options simply by wandering the area, which has a wealth of Indian, Nepalese, and Chinese cuisine, the Bakti Woodlands vegetarian cafe is a must-visit. 

This spot is only a 5-minute walk from the steamy river of life. 

The cafe’s lovely peaceful environment and delicious house tea are reason enough for a visit. Add to that some tasty vegetarian bites, dainty dumplings, and maybe even a spicy flat-noodle soup, and you’ve got a winning destination.

Peruse Chinatown’s Petaling Street Night Market

Walk another ten minutes and you’ll reach Jalan Petaling, one of the city’s most popular night markets. 

This is certainly a site to explore, with plenty to fill the senses.

You can even pick up some comfy colorful pants for the flight home.

Chances are you’re starting to get tired of walking. When you’re all wandered out, head to the nearest rail station (Pasar Seni) and catch a train back to KL Sentral.

You can buy single-use tickets from the machines at the station but they only take coins and small bills so make sure you have change before queuing up.

Check out this post for more info on getting around in Kuala Lumpur.

Getting from KL Sentral to KL Airport 

Once you’ve collected your belongings from KL Sentral, and depending on how much time you have, the fast-but-pricey KLIA Ekspres train to the airport is not your only option: there are luxury buses that do the trip for a fraction of the cost. 

Since my daughter and I still had plenty of time to catch our flight, the bus was an excellent choice. We had the ride all to ourselves and, with fully reclining chairs, it was so comfortable that we wished it had taken longer. 

The bus cost RM12 for the both of us, whereas the express train costs RM55 for one person. And while the train gets you to the airport in 30 minutes, riding the bus took us just under an hour. Granted, this was after 9pm; keep in mind that rush-hour traffic will affect travel time.

To find the bus terminal , just ask any guard or staff member at KL Sentral

On a final note: If you have a really late (or early) flight and plan to stay out in the city for a while, be sure to check when the last buses and trains go. Alternatively, a taxi should cost around RM75.

And that’s a wrap on exploring Malaysia—for now. 

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